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Esci 1/72 Panther A *finished*


Peter Lloyd

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*Barges into the pub noisily*

 

"Oi!  Lloyd here, I'm going to build a Panther!  Clear me some bar space!"

 

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Sit back and listen to the Old Man wallow in nostalgia... I think I was six or seven years old when I got my first model as a gift (Airfix Stuka).  Soon I was building everything I could afford (series one Airfix were $2.24, series two were $4.50), procuring from the local toy shop and newsagent.  Occasionally the family would go to Chatswood (Sydney, Australia), which had big shopping plazas (they were not called malls, yet, but that's what they were).  "Searles" was the centre of the universe for me... my parents usually kept me away from it... but it had a massive window with working trains and model rockets and building toys but it was more a hobby shop.  (More about Searles later).

 

And they had Esci.  By age 10 my pocket money was $5, enough to cover an Esci AFV kit and they were just so much better than the Airfix and Matchbox tanks I had built.  And there were so many options, all stacked up high.  I got the Esci 'Anzio' set for Christmas that year and it was awesome.  (The Falklands War was also that year... I was disappointed at the lack of tanks).  I got a newspaper delivery job to support my developing habit.   Within a year or two I discovered I could catch the bus to Sydney CBD and there were actual hobby shops there (dioramas in the windows!), with 1/35th scale Tamiya and after that 1/72 was mostly abandoned.

 

What I'm getting at is, fifth and sixth class were, to me, almost 'the Esci years'.  I remember building the Sherman (twice), the 155mm gun on the Sherman chassis, the Pzkpfwgn II, Flammpanzer III, Pzkpfwgn IVG, Jagdpanther, Jagdpanzer IV, Hetzer, several 251 half tracks, Matilda, Brummbar, Jagdtiger, KV-1, Semovente SP gun.  I'm sure there were others I have forgotten.  I still have my catalogue somewhere, with all the penguin cartoons.

 

I am not sure whether I ever built the Esci Panther, but I remember being pleased with the Jagdpanther, especially next to the Matchbox one.

 

On holiday in France a few years ago, a shop had opened in Reims with many second hand kits.  They were not cheap but I could not resist buying this (I think it was 25 Euros 😬 )

 

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My nostalgia-addled perception has been brought to reality on opening the plastic bag: it's a very good kit for 1974 and according to Scalemates this is the original boxing.  But it's only 'okay' for 2023.  But, what the hell do I expect?  I'm very excited to take a break for the aircraft and make this.

 

The tracks are the biggest worry.  I bought the Jagdpanther at the same time, I opened that to be my project for this GB, but the tracks were in pieces and incomplete.  I looked at options to replace them, but it would mean trashing a superior model to get tracks for a nostalgia build.  This Panther at least has complete tracks but I am anticipating problems on a kit that's nearly as old as I am.  God knows I'm not very flexible any more.

 

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Not bad.  The idler wheels have sprocket teeth on them.  I suppose this was panto-ed down from the Tamiya Panther A, which had suck sproketry to support motorisation.  I wonder if it has the Tamiya kit's dimensional flaws? (From memory, the too-tall turret and incorrect side armour angles were the main ones).  I will not be fixing them, if so.

 

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One of the delights of Esci kits were the destructions.  Looking now, I am realising I will need to apply zimmerit on this model, almost all late Ausf As had it, applied neatly or roughly.

 

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Obviously no tank can survive long on the battlefield without firm leadership.  Heinz here was a commander of vast experience, being supplied in many Esci German AFVs.  He bears a close resemblence to the commander in Tamiya's original issue 1/35 Tiger 1.  Iron Cross, Tank Assault badge, facial disfigurement from keeping his head outside the cupola for too long... clearly a veteran. 

 

Thanks for watching!

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Great story Peter! Sounds very similar to mhy story on this side of the world, these small tank kits were something great in the late '70s and early '80s for a kid. I remember building a couple myself even if I was already more into aircraft.

According to a history of Esci I have read, these tanks were also a big sale success for Esci and they helped developing the company products for many years.

I believe today some are still available under the Italeri label. At some point some (or many ? Or all?) received plastic tracks in place of the rubber ones, when I built my first kit with these they looked so much more advanced compared to the rubber bands used by most competitors

 

On a different note, many years later I lived for a while in and around Sydney and I remember going through all the malls in Chatswood searching for kits and finding none... times had changed not only in my Country but in yours too...

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Italeri seem to have re-released many, but they also sell some wargame armour and even have a few new releases.

 

If I recall correctly the plastic tracks came in across the range when they changed the boxing, but I beleive the range became smaller at the same time.  This was the late 1980s I think.  I remember being disappointed because the plastic tracks I used (a StuG III I think) were a bit chunky, and by then I had discovered how to make rubber band tracks look pretty good (piano wire pins to hold them down).

 

Now I said above I would talk more about Searles.  The shop changed hands and got smaller, and moved into the mall into a shop without any windows.  It was owned by a young married couple and I remember Mrs Hobby Shop looking rather nice to 16 year old me.  It changed hands again and moved again, and in my last year of high school I started working there.  The shop was called 'Hobbies Unlimited' and did Marklin trains and kits.  This was when all the huge malls were built and the streets became sterile.  In about 1992 there was a recession and the shop closed, the last hobby shop in Chatswood (which has, perhaps, a couple of hundred shops altogether) and none has ever replaced it and many others followed.  There are very few hobby shops in the entire Sydney area today.  When the shop closed, I stopped building kits and did not start again for over ten years.  Sadly, all my builds are now long gone, my parents got sick of them being in their house and threw them all away.

 

It's funny to think of a fellow Britmodeller, a global citizen, wandering around those big malls looking in vain to buy a kit.

 

Anyway, I started building.

 

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The pin marks I will cover with mud.

 

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This was the Jagdpanther kit I mentioned as my originally-intended build.  Tracks in a  few pieces and sections missing, some parts broken off the sprues and two road wheels missing.  The box was taped closed... pretty annoying for 25 Euro

 

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I have been busy on Grinder.

 

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Thinning down the tool racks.  It's rather nice it has them, and separate tools.

 

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I was prepared for the tracks to prove unworkable and to have to toss the model.  I cut the tracks from their sprue and manipulated the sprue, and they were fine: rubbery and flexible as the day they were made.  Pretty accurate too, but smooth on the back although the guide horns are there.  That was a real relief as it wasn't worth buying any... and as seen above, the Jagdpanther tracks from a similar-aged kit had 'gone off'.  I had to thin the sprocket teeth to get this effect.

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I cut off the periscope guards and made new ones with 0.020 Evergreen.  Maybe it was not worth it.  The depiction of the 'morticed', interlocked armour joints is depicted, but not very well.  Panthers were very vulnerable from a side shot, but not this particular one.

 

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I almost forgot about the zimmeritt, which is almost obligatory for a Panther A (I think it came in early in the production run).  On 'A's you se both the early, rought and non-stnadrd finishes, and also much neater factory jobs with parallel corrugations.  I used an old, half-dried bottle of poly cement that had gone thick, brushed it on, and dragged it with a fine razor saw.

 

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On went the tracks, with pins to force some droop.  In my opinion this is equal to hard plastic links you assemble in sections: they rarely sag properly, so either way it is a compromise. On a Panther the track tension was crucial and they should not really ride on the top of tyhe road wheels, but curve gracefully.  I doubt if any 1/72 Panther lets you do that without some very high order skills. The tracks were painted with enamels thinned with lacquer thinner, but it all rubbed straight off the smooth plastic.  As you can see the track interlocks were a bit obtrusive, but they made it easy to achieve a strong join.

 

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So I could mock the tank up... always an exciting phase even 40+ years later.

 

 

 

 

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One thing that has certainly changed since 1982 is airbrushing.  All my 1/72 tanks were painted by hand with varying degrees of success and accuracy.  In the mid-80s I bought the Shep Paine book "How To Build Dioramas" and the standard of my models improved dramatically, and I acquired a Badger 150 single-action airbrush.  This was painted with a Badger Renegade, so it's like comparing a garden shovel to a surgeon's knife.

 

These pictures give a good idea of areas you could attend to to improve this kit: the lifting loops and periscope on the turret I left as they were, for example.  The tool racks could be remade in 0.05 styrene strip.  Building old kits is always a compromise of improvements that are necessary, those that are nice to do, and those that are not worth the time on an older kit.  I should certainly have 'blanked off' the sponsons over the tracks to stop draughts blowing through in the Russian winter.  Oh well.

 

It's a cliche, but certainly this model holds up very well today.  Dragon kits are a little better, but somehow contrive to cost about AUS$50, which is not pocket money for a tiny thing.

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A little more progress... or... not...

 

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I got a reasonable coat of gloss on the model.  The zimmeritt treatment made a surface that was persistently dull so multiple coats of Tamiya clear, followed by floor polish, were used.  The decals worked very well, staying together and sliding on the paper after about 30 seconds, I used Micro Sol as well.  But even when applying them, they seemed to be lacking any adhesive.  To make them comply with the irregular surface, I pressed them into the surface with very hot water (wet a tissue, hold it in a kettle jet, then roll it over the decal).  The decals were pretty resistant to this, however.  It is a method I use on difficult decals such as Academy and Carpenia.  About 12 hours later I sprayed a coat of gloss acrylic over them.

 

I then went away for a week, and came back to this.  Not all the decals are equally affected.  I would suspect they could work okay on a flat, glossy surface, but the irregular zimmeritt was too much.  (A cross on the smooth rear plate looks okay).  I don't think Micro Sol did them any favours, either, it didn't seem to soften the film but did reduce its adhesion.

 

After this I used tape to pull off the affected decals.  I am not too worried, I can use other decals (good old generic German turrent numbers) or, as I am leaning toward a Normandy Panther, foliage camouflage will hide all sins.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/28/2023 at 9:27 AM, stevehnz said:

Peter, your decal woes may well have disappeared with use of this method, it works especially well on decals with poor adhesion & the Klear as is dries, draws decals down into surface details.

Steve.

 Thanks for this tip, I will certainly give it a try on some of the remaining decals on a test kit, to try to implant it in my memory  :)

 

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I started on Heinz, I'm not sure I can do much more with his face and the uniform details are really hard to see under black paint.  Of course he is only a work in progress.  I have not done any figures in many years.

 

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I apologise there was a lot of work without photos.  I found some decals in my Hobbyboss Grumman Bearcat, which even had the correct numberals to match the Esci decals and specifically the turret number, as I left the Esci decals on the turret rear.  Although just a generic Panther, plain white numbers were pretty common.  The model also received an enamel/oil wash, some dry brushing, a little sponge chipping using dark grey enamel.

 

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On this side you can see a few details. The spare tracks Esci generously provide have no detail on the back, so I added guide horns and scored them to gesture at their being individual links.  Larger track pieces are provided for the turret sides, a common fitmen on Ausf As, but they won't make it onto mine after the turret numeral dramas!  The Panther was fairly impervious to Allied 75/76mm guns front on, but its side armour was pretty thin. 

 

Those paying especially close attention... and I know that's all of you... will notice one of my exhaust pipes has disappeared.  If anyone finds it, PM me.  I have also answered that oft-posed question: "can a Panther be parked on the wing of a Lancaster?" (it's under repair and taking up a lot of space on my desk).

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had a project I had to complete, but I'm back on the Cat.

 

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Back in the early 70s, every kid smoked.  Only in this photo do I notice Esci suggest a Marlboro.  I lacked patience and snapped the second cable.  Obviously, using wire or nylon twine would have been better.  But frankly, I was looking to the end.

 

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I decided to make a little diorama thing, using what was lying around in the shed.  A timber offcut, some cork floor tile, general purpose putty, and gravel and dirt from the garden.

 

I didn't really complete the diorama, it needs some grass and what not, it just got painted and a bit of tree root stuck in.  The final result in in the Gallery.

 

The best Panther at the moment is the Vespid Models offering.  Ironically, these old kits cost so much second hand from shops (I don't have model shows or swap meets in my part of the world), one might as well buy the latest kit.  Although I'm happy with the result, I think paying a premium for nostaligia is a bit wrong, especially as I'm sure many vendors are mostly re-selling deceased estate stashes bought for nothing.  Well, nobody MADE me buy it, did they!?

 

A big thanks to the mods and to all who looked.

 

Thanks you all so much for looking, and to the mods.

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  • Peter Lloyd changed the title to Esci 1/72 Panther A *finished*
  • 1 month later...

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